What’s It Like to be a Journalist at a National Newspaper? Career Envy

From intern to editorial assistant to Senior Features Writer at the Daily Express in two and a half years, journalist Hannah Britt talks to AllAboutCareers.com about her career so far and advice for budding journos…

Where are you based and white titles are you working on?

I work in Bank, London, on the Daily Express and express.co.uk.

Can you give us an overview of your work with Daily Express so far?

I started out as a fashion intern at New! magazine before joining the women’s team at the Express. I came in for a couple of weeks work experience and never left. At first I was an editorial assistant, before becoming a features writer. Two and a half years after joining the Express I am now the senior features writer and write about beauty, fitness and health amongst other things.

What motivated you to follow a career path in journalism?

I’ve always loved writing but thought at first that I wanted to be a novelist. However, during my first year of uni I got involved with Concrete, the student newspaper at the University of East Anglia, and it gave me a taste for journalism. As I got more and more involved in Concrete I quickly realised that journalism was what I wanted to do once I left university.

What did you need to do before applying for the job – work experience, a specific journalism qualification? How did you find the application process?

In my experience it’s all about who you know and being in the right place at the right time. Work experience and contacts were what got me my job, rather than a course in journalism.

What’s your typical day like?

When I can, I will go to a press event or press breakfast first thing – it’s important to keep track of what’s going on in the beauty industry and meeting with PRs is the best way to do this. Then I’ll go into the office and pitch ideas to my editor for the next issue of the paper. After she chooses which one would fit the issue the best, I’ll get cracking writing it up. If we don’t need any features for the next issue, I’ll work on ones for the coming weeks.

What’s your favourite part of the job? Any parts of the job that aren’t so great?

I love the buzz of working on a national newspaper. It’s fast paced and you have to come up with new ideas every day. On the flip side, when you have 1000 words to write in next to no time because of a deadline, it can be a bit stressful. Doing what I do also means I get to travel and do interesting things, like being taken to Croatia to learn about the food or going to the top of the Gherkin for a new perfume launch.

What’s the most favourite story you have written so far?

I like writing in the first person so I have enjoyed the witty opinion pieces I have been able to do over the last two years. When you write about yourself it gives you the freedom to be creative.

Is the stereotype about long journalism working hours true?

Yes! Journalism definitely isn’t your standard nine to five job. Sometimes I’ll have to get up at 5am to go somewhere in the cold and the cold for a feature. Meeting deadlines mean I also often work late into the evenings. When it’s my turn to edit our section, it means going into the office on a Sunday, which took some getting used to. I’d say it’s worth it though.

What are your aims for the future? Any particular goals?

I’d like to continue writing, maybe doing more freelance work for a bit of variation. I’d like to try my hand at magazine journalism too – to see how it compares with working on a newspaper.

What advice would you give to a student looking to get into journalism once they graduate?

Get yourself some work experience and when you’re there work hard. Speak to everyone even if you feel nervous and make yourself useful. You never know who you might meet and it could lead to a full time job.

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